A SURREAL INTRODUCTION
By Bluey of Incognito
Say the word surreal and various things come to mind - dreamlike, unreal, fantastic, odd, bizarre or even weird. For me the experiences leading to the final outcome of Incognito's fifteenth studio album have been an amalgamation of all these synonyms and expressions!
We have our own sound and we have a fan base worldwide, but this was not the time to sit on our laurels or cut corners to compete in a struggling market place, nor was it time to just do just enough to get by. For each one of us taking part in the making of Surreal this was our chance to make bold statements, hone in our skills, dig deep into our creative souls and produce a body of work that we would all be extremely proud of. Job done!
On the 19th of February 2012 the album was completed and it was an incredible sensation to ride with the band with the tracks blasting out of the car stereo system. It's one thing to have lived with these songs for several months in the studio, but the true satisfaction comes from enjoying the songs without critically analyzing them.
Unlike the last album apart from the welcome appearance of my awesome musical muse Maysa and a few special guest musicians, this was a real band effort with most of the material performed by the current touring band. My focus from day one was song writing. From 50 songs down to 30, and then to 25 solid recordings and finally to the chosen 14 that makes Surreal.
From the thunderous opening of the very funky bass driven "The Less You Know," co-produced and co-written by our bass player Francis Hylton. Maysa delivers like only she can with a sweetness that is not only contrasting to the heavy rhythm but with a tonal delivery that combines to create something totally fresh and unique. Maysa is also featured on "Capricorn Sun," a song which I had written on my guitar after reflecting on a friend's ongoing battles with his Capricorn partner. The song is given greater expression by Maysa's outstanding voice.
From the moment I played "Goodbye To Yesterday," to my band, my manager, my family and our various international record companies, I got the same response... "That's the first single" they all chimed! Co-written and co-produced by the band's new wonder kid, Mo Brandis, this song has had an amazing effect on everybody involved in the Incognito machinery. If there is a young vocalist that can deliver on both sides as a modern R&B vocalist and a soulful old school crooner - it is Mo! This song and "Don't Wanna Know," came from one the most enjoyable co-writing sessions I've ever had the pleasure to be a part of.
The last of his three cuts "This Must Be Love" came from a band collaborative effort in early 2011. I had written the lyrics as and expression of gratitude for the presence of love in my life.
Song writing is such a personal thing and lyric writing, in particular, is something that I have always felt uneasy with when collaborating. This was indeed not the case on this album, first with Mo and then with Natalie (Williams). I felt strength in sharing ideas and formulating stories and real joy in the structure of the melodies. "Above The Night" was the first of three songs featuring Natalie Williams and it still blows me away every time I hear it. I first became aware of Natalie when we played Ronnie Scott's and she was the lead vocalist of the house band. My first reaction was "She is amazing, what can we do to get this super busy bee (She is the most in demand vocalist in London) to join the band. With the help of our intrepid musical director Matt Cooper, who was also part of this writing partnership, we began a pressure group that she finally relented to. "Restless As We are" and the sparse 70's rhythm box inspired Bossa Nova "The Stars From Here," are the other cuts featuring Natalie.
If there was ever one person that you need in your corner to deliver massive vocal performances throughout heavy touring schedules and time constricted studio sessions, it is Vanessa Haynes. "Ain't It Time," "Don't Break Me Down" and "To Be With You" are three fine examples of her incredible power and subtlety. Her naturally giving nature is reflected in each of her performances. There is a smile on my face whenever Vanessa is around and now listening to her cuts on this album, I realize that the smile will be there whenever I listen to these songs!
Surreal's penultimate track, "The Way You Love," is collaboration with my dear friend and Incognito contributor Richard Bull, and as can be expected, his drum grooves and his bass lines dominate the proceedings, creating a muscular platform for the unison vocals to dance on.
Jazz funk hardcore Incognito fans will be happy to hear that my passion for the music that shaped my musical career is on display in the form of two driving instrumentals "Rivers On The Sun," complete with solos and a superb horn arrangement, and "Thoughtful Fantasies," a nod to our beloved Brazilian Funk with all horns blazing, percussion break and everything!
To complete the package, I turned to West London's highly creative graphic designer, Mitchy Bwoy, which has resulted in the album's vibrant and distinctive look. The great surrealist painter Salvador Dali once said, "At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since."
With this album another part of my ambition has been realized... I'm a lucky fellow!